There can be no educational equity without digital equity.
The integration of technology into our daily lives has not followed a linear trend but has seen rapid bursts of innovation, shrinking room-sized computing systems into pocket-sized devices and transforming the way we work, live, and socialize. These innovations have also brought new means of providing in-classroom, blended, and remote instruction. But while some education institutions have the infrastructure and funding to be early adopters of educational technology and integrated learning systems, these opportunities are not universal, creating a digital divide that encompasses everything from access to physical devices, accessible high-speed home internet, and opportunities to learn in classrooms where educators have developed expertise in incorporating technology into effective instruction. Additionally, in our increasingly digital world, students who graduate with in-depth knowledge and experience in emerging technologies have a competitive advantage that is quickly becoming a minimum requirement for many high wage, high skill, high demand careers.
Prior to the pandemic, nearly 17 million children did not have access to high-speed internet in their homes and disparities were greater for students from historically underserved populations, with one in three Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native families lacking access and nearly two in five families living in rural areas. While there has been progress on connectivity nationwide, as of 2023, 33 percent of school districts still did not meet the FCC recommendation of bandwidth of 1 Mbps per student and EducationSuperHighway reports that the cost of high-speed broadband still serves as a barrier to access, even where broadband infrastructure exists. And as we move out of the pandemic, fewer schools are offering students access to home internet, with the National Center for Education Statistics reporting 45 percent of public schools offering home internet in 2022, compared to 70 percent in 2021.
It is critical that policymakers are thinking holistically and sustainably through ways to ensure that barriers such as cost, repair, and language do not stop families and students from accessing the programs they enact. Superintendents and educators are critical partners in ensuring that well-intentioned policy passed during the legislative session is structured to reach those impacted and is successful in the classroom. Additionally, practitioners serve as critical resources for policymakers as they collect feedback, assist in amending existing policy to be more impactful, and support implementation over time.
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Due to the rapidly changing nature of digital education resources, educators, administrators, and school leaders need to be able to plan and project available funding into the future.
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Educators need impactful, efficient professional learning and training around current and emerging digital resources to ensure they can fully integrate technology into teaching and learning.
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